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Ex-Rebel Leader's Sanity Questioned

Sierra Leone: On trial for murder, Foday Sankoh appears incoherent and defiant.

June 06, 2002|From Associated Press

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — His hair and beard in unkempt white dreadlocks, Sierra Leone's once mighty and feared rebel leader appears today to hover on the verge of madness--but insists he's still at the pinnacle of power.

"I'm a god," the handcuffed former warlord, Foday Sankoh, said Wednesday at the Freetown high court where he's standing trial for murder. "I'm the inner god. I'm the leader of Sierra Leone."

Sankoh is being tried along with 49 other rebels of his Revolutionary United Front for the deaths of nearly two dozen peace demonstrators in a shooting outside his home here in the capital on May 8, 2000. Together they face 70 counts, including murder, conspiracy to murder and shooting with intent to kill.

Wednesday's proceedings were adjourned until July 10 to give prosecutors time to prepare indictments. If convicted, Sankoh could face the death penalty, Judge Patrick Hamilton said.

Sankoh denied all charges during preliminary questioning in a lower court but has not entered a formal plea.

Prosecutors say Sankoh is fit to stand trial.

Sankoh, however, when asked repeatedly by journalists who his lawyer was, first said he couldn't understand the question, then said he didn't know.

Frail-looking in a pale yellow African robe, the former rebel chief climbed slowly up the courtroom steps gripping a handrail for support, surrounded by a dozen unarmed policemen.

As Sankoh was leaving, his daughter, Mbalu, trailed him, saying tearfully, "It's me, Daddy. It's me." Appearing puzzled, Sankoh replied simply, "Oh."

Then, after a pause, he kissed her extended hand and smiled.

Two months ago, he was medically examined--physically and psychologically--at the request of his lawyer, Edo Okanya.

Doctors prescribed only drugs for high blood pressure and other minor ailments, Okanya said.

Although Sankoh appears incoherent at times, at others he seemed lucid.

Asked what he thought of the current trial, he said: "Oh, these are just old games."

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